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Finding the Right Fit

My mother has always expressed to me that she only wants “what’s best” for me, and this is where my charter school story begins. At 14, I had been attending the same public school for eight years, yet I was unfamiliar with most teachers and students. I often felt invisible, especially during the times where I needed help, and I never knew who to talk to. I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my needs. My mother knew there were better choices for me, places where I could thrive academically and socially.

We found that choice in Perspectives Charter School.

Attending Perspectives was the first time I had ever felt comfortable in school. It was smaller, there were students of many different ethnicities, and everyone took pride in wearing their uniforms. The teachers were dedicated – they seemed to care about my learning experience, made sure I stayed on track, and provided additional help whenever it was needed.

The school taught the importance of self-perception, relationships, and productivity, which gave me the tools to lead a productive and successful life. By senior year, I had participated in two business internships, excelled in my classwork and I was accepted to every college I applied to.

After college, I joined NACSA because I believe every child deserves to receive a quality education. I love working alongside colleagues who are also driven by this belief, and who believe in producing A-level work and setting high bars for everyone’s performance – including their own. It feels great to be part of a team working to ensure students like me will have access to choices that work for them. Choices like Perspectives.

 

Brittany Brown is the Communications Associate for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Her blog post originally appeared on the Chartering Quality blog.

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Thirteen Years Later, I’m Still an Ambassador for Charter Schools

This is the story of my senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges in the early aughts. I was like a lot of students from my California hometown, applying for some public UCs and a few private schools in-state and back east (also known as “where it snows,” which was generally regarded with skepticism).

But, unlike most of those aspiring freshmen, I was one of twenty kids graduating from my town’s first charter school.

This presented a challenge, as the vast majority of the country didn’t even know what a charter school was back then, including college admissions personnel. My school knew that in some ways this put me at a disadvantage, as my high school experience was going to be approached by admissions officers with a degree of skepticism.

We were a team, me and my school. We had to win those colleges over and convince them not only of my merits as an applicant, but of the merits of my school and the rigor of my high school education. We had to be ambassadors for the charter school movement.

And now, in my career at NACSA, I’m still that ambassador for quality charter schools—but in a different way.

I’m no longer speaking for one great school, but instead speaking for charter school authorizers. In their role as the gatekeepers of the charter movement, authorizers see the best and the worst of the charter sector. They see those schools that are shining stars and changing lives, and those that let our kids down. And while their identities are varied, authorizers are the common denominator in the charter sector. Every charter school in existence now and every charter school that could possibly exist in the future has a charter school authorizer.

This means the impact of authorizing is huge. If an authorizer is doing its job well, it will set the bar high and only great schools will be allowed to open and remain open year after year.

If I can give one authorizer the tools it needs to do its job well, that might mean one more class of high school seniors is preparing for their first day of college.

And, if through policy change I can ensure all authorizers in a state have the tools they need to do their jobs well, that could change a lot.

 

Amanda Fenton is the Director of State and Federal Policy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Her blog post originally appeared on the Chartering Quality blog.

Rebecca David

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U.S. News and World Report Ranks 28 Public Charter Schools in Top 100

Today, the U.S. News & World Report released its 2015 Best High Schools Rankings, and 28 public charter schools are among the top 100. Moreover, two public charter high schools are ranked in the top 10: BASIS Scottsdale (#2) in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology (#4) in Lawrenceville, Ga.

U.S. News teamed up with RTI International, a North Carolina-based global nonprofit social science research firm, to produce the 2015 rankings. Public high schools were evaluated by their students’ performance on state-mandated assessments, minority and economically disadvantaged student performance, and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam results to determine preparedness for college-level work. Public charter school representation in the top 100 of the U.S. News Best High Schools Rankings has grown over the past five years from 18 schools to 28.

The 2015 rankings included nine public charter schools that are new to the top 100 this year. Congratulations to these charter schools for being recognized as the top public high schools in the nation!

Rebecca David is the Research Assistant at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

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High School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Leila from Western Sierra Collegiate Academy in California won the high school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

As people become increasingly aware of the unique learning systems offered by non-traditional institutions, the amount of students enrolled in charter schools continues to grow. Parents nationwide choose to enroll their children in charter schools for a variety of reasons; however, I love my charter school because of its welcoming campus culture, wealth of student opportunities, and heavy emphasis on college preparation.

At Western Sierra Collegiate Academy (WSCA), students are immersed in a rich campus culture that fosters great individual learning and growth. Enjoying high student diversity, WSCA is home to students from many different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Whereas diversity has sometimes led to social issues at other schools, at WSCA it is these very cultural differences that make us a stronger and more unified student body. Having attended WSCA for four years, I have definitely been on campus long enough to say that the people at my school truly feel like family. I am extremely grateful to have been able to thrive in an environment that not only respects but wholeheartedly welcomes individuality. When I go to school, I see students who are unafraid to be themselves and express their opinions, and I believe that WSCA’s positive campus culture is what makes this possible.

In addition to fostering a rich social environment, WSCA also offers numerous student opportunities unavailable at other schools. Because of WSCA’s open-minded mission statement, students have the rare chance to participate in competitions on a smaller-scale, potentially opening up doors for the future. Kids are also encouraged to start clubs according to their interests. Because of this, I have been able to found and lead my high school’s community service club and gain valuable leadership skills. Other clubs supported by WSCA include: computer club, international dance club, yoga club, and Pokemon club. Students also have access to extra-learning enrichment sessions and student tutoring should they need any further help in a specific area.

Finally, perhaps WSCA’s most defining quality is the emphasis that is placed on college preparedness. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves with rigorous AP classes and regularly attend the monthly college informational night to learn how to build college transcripts and start early preparations. At the College and Career Center, students can arrange a meeting with the college counselor to discuss future plans and make long-term goals for success. Whenever a senior receives a college acceptance letter, their name and school of acceptance goes on display on the big bulletin board so everyone can share their excitement. Counselors and faculty interact with students on such a personal level (often waving “hello” in the hallways, or asking about their day) that genuinely makes each student feel valued and important.

Western Sierra Collegiate Academy is truly a special school, and I love being a WSCA student for many reasons. However, although the list of WSCA pros is vast, without a doubt, its rich campus culture, broad range of student opportunities, and college-geared mission are primary reasons to love my charter school.

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Middle School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Omara from Community Day Charter Public School in Massachusetts won the middle school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

I entered Community Day Charter Public School (CDCPS) eight years ago as a kindergartener similar to how many of my peers did–very quiet and very nervous. I was extremely introverted and liked to keep things to myself. Through the many grades I have grown to be a much more outspoken student who isn’t afraid of raising her hand and voicing her opinion in all her classes. I achieved this with the help the amazing adults and classmates who have taught me so many academic and life lessons during my years at CDCPS. Looking back now as an 8th grader, I couldn’t imagine myself in any other school doing the things I’m doing. Each day that I go to the charter, I’m pushed to be the best version of myself. I am encouraged to go “above and beyond” by all my teachers in every subject and on every assignment. This year in English class, we are reading one of Shakespeare’s plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The language is difficult and many of my peers and I struggle to understand some sections, but we are given the opportunity to break down words and phrases and comprehend. In math class, we are learning algebra, and in science we learn about chemical reactions through experimentation. This challenging work gives students a feeling of self-pride. We the Students are taught to make goals for ourselves and try to not only complete them but surpass them every school year.

At our charter school every single student is cared for and supported–nobody is left behind. The teachers at CDCPS get to know all of their students and recognize each individual’s strength and weaknesses. They bring their best to all of their lessons and have high expectations, which, in turn, motivates students to want to learn more and meet those high standards.

Not only does CDCPS guide students to a road of academic success, it also develops students into people with good character for life outside of school. We learned from the start of our schooling career to be kind to one another and always give back to our community. As a whole school we have done many service projects like can drives, coin wars, and clean-ups. Each project helped us mature and acknowledge how grateful we really are. The life lessons and skills that have been a part of us since first grade and stayed with us up through eighth grade will come in handy when we step away from our charter school and enter a new environment where we can make the difference. CDCPS develops well-rounded students who stand out in large crowds for their leadership abilities.

Community Day Charter Public School is a community of children, teachers, and parents who work together to support the finest hard-working, dedicated students in Lawrence, Massachusetts, if not in our entire state or nation. I am honored to have been given the chance to be a part of the great academic and character-driven community that is CDCPS.

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Elementary School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Lydia from Riverview Charter School in South Carolina won the elementary school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

Have you ever taken the time to think about why you love your school? I love my school in many different ways. Those ways are the teachers, field trips, school plays, and specials. In this essay, you will read about why I love my school so much.

First of all, I love my school because all of the teachers have amazing personalities and backgrounds. For instance, Mr. Malijenovsky is from France and now he teaches in America. Mr. Good is totally hilarious and he is always really kind. Next, the teachers teach us in awesome ways. They act out what we’re learning and they sometimes do funny voices! Lastly, they are all so different. Mr. Bridge loves sports and Mrs. Duffy loves animals.

Second of all, I love the field trips. They help us understand learning 10 times more! They make learning really exciting and enjoyable. There is a lot of hands on learning so we can touch interesting animals and such. Field trips are especially exciting when we get to go to Barrier Island in the second grade, Washington D.C. in the fifth grade, and Costa Rice in eighth grade!

Next, I love my school because we do school plays. Everybody gets a change to have a main role and lines. I especially like the plays because they are based on what we’re learning in class. They especially help us remember all of the information we need to know. The plays are awesome!

Last but not least, I love my school because we have specials. The specials are P.E., art, music, Spanish, French, technology, and drama. We get to play cool and boisterous sports and games! In music we have concerts, drum battles, and do singing contests girls versus boys. P.E. and music are two of my favorite specials. That is the last reason why I love my school.

Now you know that I love my school because of the teachers, field trips, school plays, and specials. One day you should visit my school, Riverview Charter School.

Nora Kern

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21 Public Charter Schools Recognized as 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, as described by the U.S. Department of Education, “recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.” This year, the 21 charter schools were among the 287 public schools throughout the nation named 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

In order to be eligible for the National Blue Ribbon award, the school must have made Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) or Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for three consecutive years, including the year the school is nominated. Additionally, one-third of all the nominated schools in a state must serve at least 40 percent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This year there are nine more public charter schools that earned the National Blue Ribbon School—up from twelve charter school award winners in 2013. Congratulations to the 2014 National Blue Ribbon public charter schools for their outstanding educational programs and accomplishments!

Charter School State
Mesquite Elementary School Arizona
Reid Traditional Schools’ Valley Academy Arizona
Bullis Purissima Charter School California
KIPP Summit Academy California
Academy of Dover Charter School Delaware
Crossroad Academy Florida
Doral Performing Arts & Entertainment Academy Florida
Mater Gardens Academy Florida
Terrace Community Middle School Florida
Elite Scholars Academy Charter School Georgia
Lake Oconee Academy Georgia
Signature School Indiana
Pace Charter School of Hamilton New Jersey
Genesee Community Charter School New York
South Bronx Classical Charter School New York
Raleigh Charter High School North Carolina
Columbus Preparatory Academy Ohio
Franklin Towne Charter High School Pennsylvania
Houston Academy for International Studies Texas
KIPP Houston High School Texas
KIPP Sharp College Prep Texas

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


Andrew Schantz

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California Charter Schools Association: Portrait of the Movement

In late August, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) released its fourth annual Portrait of the Movement, a report that tells the story of what has happened in California’s charter school movement over the past five years, why it has happened, and what can be done to ensure continued growth and momentum. 

Trends highlighted throughout Portrait of the Movement, Five Year Retrospective: A Charter Sector Growing in Numbers and Strength indicate that tens of thousands of California’s students are being educated in better performing charter schools than just five years ago.

The California charter schools movement is large and diverse and now serving over half a million public school students. This number is growing every year and more importantly, these students are making significant improvements in academic performance. That performance has been driven by the growth of quality schools and the closure of underperforming schools.

Our research shows that charters have made improvements in academic performance during a time of explosive growth in enrollment, and during a severe funding crisis in California that disproportionately affected charters. We’ve highlighted many of the key findings from the report on our website.

I am delighted that CCSA’s research, recent findings from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes and the National Alliance for Public Charters Schools, as well as other national data all continue to point in the same direction – that charter schools are performing incredibly well, especially with historically underserved students. Even better, they’re improving over time.

Jed Wallace, president and CEO, California Charter Schools Association

Nora Kern

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Public Charter Schools Top All Best High School Ranking Lists

U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, and Newsweek all have annual rankings of the best public high schools in the nation. Despite public charter schools making up only 6 percent of public high schools nationwide, they have been a continuous presence on national ranking lists

The table below presents the public charter schools that were ranked in the top 100 on at least one of the lists, as well as the public charter schools ranked in Newsweek’s top “25 Doing the Most with the Least” list. BASIS Tuscon North, Signature School, and Archmedean Upper Conservatory were listed in the top 100 on all three major lists. Fourteen public charter schools were among the top 100 on two national high school rankings.

The U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools list had 24 public charter schools in the top 100. The report also ranked three public charters in the top 10. The Washington Post’s Most Challenging High Schools ranked 31 public charter schools in their top 100—up from 28 charters in 2013—and comprised half of the top 10. In Newsweek’s Top High Schools list, there were 17 public charter schools in the top 100, four more charters than in 2013, with three reaching their top 10.

Newsweek also came out with their “25 Doing the Most with the Least” list, which takes students’ socioeconomic status into account. Ten public charter schools were on the list, making up 40 percent of the nation’s top high schools that are closing the achievement gap. 

Congratulations to these public charter schools that are providing their students with the best education in the nation.

School Name State U.S. News & World Report, Best High Schools Washington Post, High School Challenge Index Newsweek, America’s Best High Schools Newsweek, 25 Schools Doing the Most with the Least
Haas Hall Academy AR 25
Accelerated Elementary and Secondary AZ 24
BASIS Oro Valley AZ 7
BASIS Scottsdale AZ 2 2
BASIS Tuscon North AZ 5 10 29
Northland Preparatory Academy AZ 44
American Indian Public Charter CA 44 1
Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School CA 9
Hawthorne Math and Science Academy CA 55
KIPP King Collegiate High CA 67
KIPP San Jose Collegiate CA 41
Lennox Mathematics, Science & Technology Academy CA 59
Northcoast Prep and Performing Arts Academy CA 21
Orange County School of the Arts CA 52
Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School CA 25
Pacific Collegiate School CA 25 83
Stockton Collegiate International CA 44
The Preuss School UCSD CA 42 40 1
University High School CA 53 98
Peak to Peak Charter School CO 66 28
The Charter School of Wilmington DE 30
Archimedean Upper Conservatory FL 100 19 67
City of Hialeah Educational Academy FL 13
Doral Academy Performing Arts and Entertainment FL 86
International Studies Charter high School FL 24
Mater Academy Charter High FL 22
Gwinnett School of Math, Science & Tech GA 3 17
Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy ID 47 66
Noble Street College Prep IL 4
Signature School IN 21 6 5
Mystic Valley Regional Charter School MA 92
Sturgis Charter MA 88
Nova Classical MN 86
St. Croix Prep MN 80
Raleigh Charter High School NC 55 33
Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science at UNM NM 64 48
Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas NV 73
Dove Science Academy Tulsa OK 8
Harding Charter Preparatory High School OK 89
Corbett Charter OR 3
Challenge Early College TX 97
Energized for STEM TX 32
Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts TX 91
Harmony School of Innovation – Fort Worth TX 59
Harmony Science Academy – North Austin TX 25
Harmony Science Academy Brownsville TX 30
Harmony Science Academy Houston TX 51
Harmony Science Academy-Waco TX 42
IDEA Academy and Collegy Preparatory School TX 30
IDEA Frontier College Preparatory TX 85
KIPP Austin Col TX 63
NYOS Charter School TX 93
Uplift North Hills Preparatory TX 2 40
Uplift Peak Preparatory TX 2
Uplift Summit International Preparatory TX 16 99 19
Uplift Williams Prepatory TX 29 3
YES Prep East End Campus TX 81 74
YES Prep North Central TX 28 57
YES Prep Southeast TX 95

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Nora Kern

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Public Charter Schools Once Again Top Newsweek Best High School Rankings

Last week, Newsweek/The Daily Beast released their rankings of the top U.S. high schools—with 17 public charter schools in the top 100. Like in last year’s Newsweek rankings, two BASIS schools were in the top 10, along with the Signature School as the other public charter school in the top 10.

In an accompanying The Daily Beast article titled “What Charter Schools Are Getting Right and Why They Top Our High School Rankings,” the authors point out that, “Even though charters educate just five percent of American students, they represent 30 percent of the top ten schools in this year’s rankings. What’s more—and this is really the kicker—they’re the only ones in the top ten that do not use selective admissions.” The article further looks at key charter autonomies that make a difference: their ability to hire (and fire) staff, set their own schedule, and choose curricula.

For the top 100 schools, charters held 17 spots. This number is up from 13 charter schools in the top 100 last year. 

The Newsweek/Daily Beast ranking methodology tweaked some components and their weighting compared to last year, but the overarching goal to identify the schools that best prepare their students for college remains the same. This year’s four ranking components are: four-year cohort graduation rate (30 percent weight); college acceptance rate (30 percent weight); rigor/college preparedness (30 percent weight)—measured by the student participation in AP, IB, or AICE courses and passage rates for those exams; and college entrance exams (10 percent weight)—meaning average SAT or ACT scores.

Another change was that the former “Transformative High Schools” list is now titled “25 Doing the Most with the Least.” However, the methodology is still the same; the best high schools list is additionally filtered for schools serving the highest number of free and reduced price eligible students—a key indicator of socioeconomic status. Ten of the 25 schools on the list are public charter schools, including those in the top 4 spots. 

Congratulations to these public charter schools that are seeing amazing results for their students and closing the achievement gap!

Nora Kern is Senior Manager of Research and Analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools